No. 6 Huskers Roll Past Denver in Season Opener
Lincoln - The sixth-ranked Nebraska women's gymnastics team opened the 2012 season in record-setting fashion, besting No. 20 Denver, 197.375-195.225, at the Bob Devaney Sports Center Friday night.
The Huskers, coming off a fourth-place finish at last year's NCAAs, were dominant from start to finish, going above 49.30 on all four events en route to shattering the previous opening-meet record of 196.55 set in 2004. The Huskers' score of 197.375 tied for the 10th-highest score in school history and stunned Nebraska Coach Dan Kendig.
"Wow!" Kendig said. "Tonight, we competed extremely well as a team and we had a lot of momentum early. It's a long season and we made some mistakes, but it was a great start for us. On Wednesday, I didn't know who we would have in the lineup because of bumps and bruises, but yesterday's practice was better, and I was proud of how we came out tonight. We got a great start on vault and it just carried through."
The Huskers swept all four event titles and also took the top four places in the all-around. Freshman Jessie DeZiel won the all-around in impressive fashion with a score of 39.575, the highest debut in school history. DeZiel scored at least a 9.875 on all four events, including a 9.925 to win the floor exercise title.
"She warmed up just OK, but when the flag went up, she was all business," Kendig said of DeZiel. "She is that talented, and I am hoping she can stay that way."
Janelle Giblin finished second in the all-around with a career-high mark of 39.50, taking event titles on vault (9.925) and uneven bars (9.90), while Emily Wong took the balance beam crown with a 9.925, giving Nebraska a clean sweep of the night. Wong tied Lora Evenstad for third in the all-around with a final mark of 34.475.
Nebraska could not have opened the season with a stronger start, as three of the Husker veterans notched career bests in helping Nebraska to a 49.375 on vault to build a solid lead. The Huskers, who didn't score that high on the event until the fifth meet of the year last year, built a commanding 49.375-.48.725 lead. Deanna Barmore began the night with a career-high 9.875 while Emily Wong went 9.825 in her first career vault before Giblin turned in the performance of the night, winning the event with a 9.925. Deziel closed out the strong set with a 9.90 to tie Denver Melodie Pulgarin Linero for second place on the event.
"Deanna's start was huge for us," Kendig said. "She was coming back from surgery over the summer, stepped up and gave us a great vault. Anytime you get a great start on an event like that and you continue to hit, it sets up our other vaulters."
The Huskers continued to perform solidly on the uneven bars, taking four of the top five spots on the event in posting a 49.30 on the event. Giblin led the charge with her second career best of the night, completing a near flawless routine with a 9.90 to best her previous high set at last season's Super Six Finals. DeZiel placed second with a 9.875 in her debut on the event while Emily Wong and Lora Evenstad tied Denver's Louise Mercer for third with 9.85s.
The Huskers overcame some early adversity on balance beam, overcoming an early fall with four solid routine in posting a 49.35 on the event to build a 148.025-146.60 lead after three rotations. After Giblin opened with a 9.85, a fall put the Huskers in a precarious position, but Evenstad came up with a career-high effort of 9.875 to put the Huskers back on the right track. After a 9.85 from Brittany Skinner, DeZiel and Wong closed out a strong set with scores of 9.875 and a 9.90, respectively.
Kendig said that Evenstad's beam routine was crucial for Nebraska's performance.
"She didn't make a series in warm-ups, and we almost pulled her from the lineup," Kendig said. "After warm-ups, (assistant coach) Heather (Brink) asked her if she was confident in this, and she said she was. Lora looked a little nervous but handled it great."
The Huskers closed the night with a score of 49.35 on floor, as all five routines scored better than 9.80, including a 9.925 by DeZeil and a 9.90 by Evenstad.
The Huskers return to action on Friday, Jan. 20, when they travel to Iowa State. Meet start time is set for 6:30 p.m.